Windhoek — President Hage Geingob was on course to remove Katrina Hanse-Himarwa as minister of education even if she had not tendered her resignation, State House said yesterday.
Hanse-Himarwa was convicted of corruption by the Windhoek High Court on Monday and was cagey when asked by journalists if she would resign in light of her landmark conviction. President Geingob remarked on Monday evening - upon arrival from Niger - that he planned on going to see Hanse-Himarwa, whom he described as a friend and colleague, to tell her to "be strong".
The President's remarks drew criticism in some quarters that he was planning on comforting the minister over her conviction on corruption - one of the social ills that the President regularly speaks against.
But his press secretary Alfredo Hengari said in a statement that plans were already afoot to remove the minister from office.
"With the guilty verdict by the High Court of the Republic of Namibia, and in line with the expressed commitment by President Geingob to transparency and the fight against corruption, the Head of State would have been left with no option but to relieve Honourable Katrina Hanse-Himarwa of her ministerial responsibilities," said Hengari.
Geingob appointed Hanse-Himarwa to parliament in 2015 and it is not clear whether he would remove the former minister from his list of parliamentary appointees too.
The National Assembly yesterday said it is closely monitoring the situation in this regard.
Hanse-Himarwa's personal assistant, Timotheus Mutambo told New Era yesterday that the former minister did not resign from parliament.
National Assembly speaker Peter Katjavivi said he is closely following the situation.
"I just received the news [of her resignation] while presiding in parliament. We will certainly look into the matter and get back to you as soon as possible," Katjavivi promised.
Hanse-Himarwa did not attend yesterday's session of the National Assembly.
The former Hardap governor was found guilty of corruption by High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg on Monday. She was charged with corruptly using her office or position to obtain gratification during her tenure as governor of the Hardap Region in 2014.
According to the judge, it was duly established that Hanse-Himarwa, during her reign as governor of the Hardap Region, abused her powers and authority vested in her office when she insisted that the list of beneficiaries of the Mass Housing Development Program be amended by removing two opposition members and replacing them with her relatives. The date for her sentencing is yet to be set. Subsequently, Hanse-Himarwa tendered her resignation yesterday, saying she understood the seriousness of her conviction and was mindful of the President's strong views on transparency and accountability.
"In this light, I herewith confirm that I have requested to be relieved of my duties as Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, with immediate effect," she said in a statement issued yesterday.
She vowed to exercise her full legal rights, through the appropriate legal channels.
The presidency later said Geingob has accepted her resignation.
Hengari said Geingob is always advocating for processes, systems and institutions in the Namibian governance architecture.
Geingob commended Hanse-Himarwa for the decision she has taken in accepting to live up to her responsibility by respecting the rule of law and the institutions of the Republic of Namibia.
He thanked her for having served the Namibian people with dedication and loyalty in her ministerial duties. She equally thanked Geingob for his forthright and principled leadership, saying serving in his Cabinet has been an honour and a privilege, from which she has learned immense lessons.
"I apologise to both him, and the Namibian people, as I know this conviction has been a source of disappointment and distress for many who know me," she remarked.